Government should set end date on emergency powers, says human rights report

Extended Garda powers must end, according to Irish Council for Civil Liberties

The report questioned whether restrictions on movement were always proportionate. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

The report questioned whether restrictions on movement were always proportionate. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

Emergency legislation brought in due to the Covid-19 crisis must have a set end date and be reviewed to end extended police powers and protect human rights, according to The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

Extended Garda powers must end, the rights to protest and worship must be protected and better human rights standards for Mandatory Hotel Quarantine must apply, the ICCL report Human Rights in a Pandemic said.

The report made a number of recommendations to protect human rights during the Covid-19 response and insisted upon a “rigorous Oireachtas review” and debate on the emergency public health powers which were due to lapse on June 9th. The powers were extended last night to last until November.

Extended police powers “damage the relationship between police and general population” and there has been an “over-reliance on police powers to ensure compliance with public health guidelines where better communication and supports may have been more effective”, the report said.

Better data is needed on the use of Garda powers, the report said. The use of spit hoods by gardaí “may constitute inhuman or degrading treatment” and the report called for an “immediate end” to their use.

Rights such as those to protest and worship “can be exercised in a way that protects people from disease,” and the government should advise people how they can do that, the report said, adding that “peaceful protest should never be criminalised.”

Recommendations

Protest takes on “an even greater importance in a democracy during a time when decisions are being made that have such a huge impact on lives and livelihoods.”

Also among the recommendations from the independent human rights organisation was amendments to the current system of Mandatory Hotel Quarantine to ensure “basic standards such as inspections, review and appeals processes apply”.

People deemed at-risk, such as people living in congregated settings in Direct Provision Centres, Traveller halting sites and prisons require “urgent supports” to help them recover from the impacts of the restrictions. The report noted that older people and women have also suffered disproportionately during the pandemic.

The report questioned whether restrictions on movement were always proportionate, and demanded evidence of the efficacy of the Covid Tracker App. It said the application should be “discontinued” if evidence is not provided.

The pandemic has shown how “when some are at risk, we are all at risk,” Liam Herrick, executive director of ICCL, said.

“We’ve seen how interconnected we are and how reliant we are on each other for our health and wellbeing. Yet during the pandemic, existing inequalities were exacerbated,” he said.

Mr Herrick called for the government to restore the rights and freedoms restricted during the pandemic “on an equal basis for everyone” in the coming months and “address structural inequalities and solve entrenched social problems”.